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Stuffed Memories

“What was your favorite toy as a child?”

This is a post I could rant and rave on forever. I feel that I was blessed and had so many toys, but I did not really realize it until now when I think back and try to decide what exactly was my favorite. This is difficult because I think that I played




My mind first went to a few places – stuffed animals, Legos, ‘Batmen’ (AKA action figures), and when we were outdoors it was Tonka Trucks, bikes, and playing baseball.

As I try to think back, I am not sure that I could peg one toy as being my favorite because I tried to treat them as equals and give them the same amount of love (maybe my younger brother forcing us to watch Toy Story 100+ days straight had some sort of effect on me).

Every night before bed, I would have to organize all of my stuffed animals on my bunk bed to sleep with me. I easily had around 30, definitely over 20, and would spend a lot of time arranging them just right before a bedtime story and then lights out. Some of my favorites were a Winnie the Pooh that I still have and is now in my son Zander’s room, Woody the Woodpecker (who probably was my favorite) and then the rest of the pack was riddled with random stuffed animals I had gotten from family or vacations. I specifically remember two dolphins I got from Sea World (Flipper and Dipper) – but probably my most favorite was a tiny Tigger stuffed animal. It was somewhat of a knockoff-looking version of him, but it was something that I had since I was a baby.

My parents always tell the story of how they would make it sneeze and I would crack up with deep-belly laughs. I thought that this Tigger was lost forever until I found it a couple months ago while going through a box of Beanie Babies that we collected.

And on that note, and the length of my description of the stuffed animals, I think it is safe to say that those were my favorite toys – and toys that I knew I had to reject at some point to keep from getting made fun of. I don’t remember sleeping with stuffed animals once we moved to our new house – maybe I did, but I remember always keeping them in my room or closet.

There was always something about these characters that I loved. Perhaps it was the comfort they offered, or the sense of safety when sleeping in my own bed and eventually my own room (not sharing with my brother). What I love now is that I was able to pass some of my animals onto my 5 month old son and hope that he will enjoy them as much as I did.

I have to laugh because it is somewhat disarming to talk of toys and sensitive things as a grown man, yet I am not afraid of my feelings or feel any shame. I want my son to know that it is okay to be a kid and to not always play with Tonka trucks and Legos, he can do what he wants and he needs to explore the creativity that his mind creates without the dictates of society or flawed adults interfering with the innocence of a child. Childhood is a time to explore and learn, not to be hindered or indoctrinated, and I am excited to see him progress through life. I just hope time slows down so we can all enjoy the journey.

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Stepping Out

person rock climbing

“When was the last time you left your comfort zone?”

I find this to be a strange question and odd prompt – do people really hunker down in their comfort zones for weeks at a time, maybe even months or years?

Of course they do and I have been there a few times in my life. One of the great needs for humans is the need for homeostasis; stability in a crazy, ever-changing world. I may have misconstrued the prompt slightly – “write about the last time you left your comfort zone” – but my opening message remains the same.

I am not sure that there is an easy way to pinpoint this because I feel that ever since I asked my now-wife to marry me, I have been challenging myself to leave my comfort zone as much as possible so that I could grow in life. And while I say this, we always have one thing that we cling to and hold onto for dear life as the constant that gives us some sanity in life. Maybe it is the family life, maybe it is your career, but the truth of the matter is that you cannot thrive in a comfort zone and if you feel yourself sinking into one, you need to assess it – and challenge it if you ever desire growth in your life.

I believe that every morning when my alarm goes off at 4:30am, and I actually get up rather than snoozing it until 5:00 or 5:30am, then that is a successful day because I have removed myself from the first comfort zone of the day, my bed and my peaceful (though often dream-filled) sleep. We all need an adequate amount of sleep, so I am not saying to neglect your body’s needs, but if you have big goals & dreams set for yourself, how will you conquer them when you are asleep? If I lay there, or am able to snooze and pick up an extra 15 minutes of sleep, I have to ask myself the question – was that 15 minutes even restful sleep, or could it have been better utilized on other tasks in the morning to prepare me for attacking the day?

I think that the latter will always win out because the psychological weight of missed time & opportunity will weigh you down through the day more than the missed sleep. If anything you will feel more awake & energized with that small victory under your belt so early in the morning.

I’m sure that I could have dressed this “leaving my comfort zone” post up much more, but I am a huge believer that small things make the biggest impacts in our lives. So often people will go way over the top just to prove a point to themselves, or the proverbial ‘they’, without realizing the action did not fit the situation and will not illicit a reaction they desire because they have not calculated, but have dropped an errant bomb with no purpose other than destruction to prove a point.

So often we think that we must be showman, that what we say has no weight without theatrics, or that a blog post must be long, intricate, and perfectly manicured with a stylistic flair that jumps off the page. Sometimes all it takes is asking yourself “what is the right thing to do” and executing on that thought no matter how much fear bubbles up in your gut.

Use the fear as a guide of where you can leap out of your comfort zone – and take your steps to freedom of mind and watch your life get better with every chance you take.

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The Road Less Travelled

What is a Road Trip you would Love to take?

One of my resolutions for 2020 was to travel more – but we all know how that turned out! I never thought that we would see a time where we were “locked down” due to a virus, or anything for that matter. It seemed that life was too good, too prosperous, and how could things ever go from good to worse? I guess they could, they did, and even as it seems to be getting better, it also seems like there is an incessant push to keep the fear loitering in our minds and pushing our psyches to a state of near-panic.

I would rather sit in my house with my wife, baby, and our dogs than have to go out into the world masked up, juggling the restrictions versus the possible benefit of travel – but a road trip is a great way to forge your own path and to avoid the mass transit option of planes.

Last August we closed on 5 acres of land that was owned by my family 4 generations ago, and along with the land, we got a giant RV. This was purely a bonus for me because I just wanted the land to grow my gardens, plant fruit trees and cultivate any plant that I had the desire to grow – but the RV was a bonus that could either be sold, or could become a fun project that could be used for camping until we built our house there – or could be used to road trip around the country in.

The road trip of my dreams could take place in 2 locations – one is somewhat unattainable by RV, but I think that traveling through Europe would be amazing. Every time I see pictures of Switzerland’s mountains, Italy’s mountains and vineyards and Old World villages, I am immediately drawn to it like I have been there in a dream – or maybe in a past life.

While Europe is on the ultimate bucket list of travel, I would want to explore the greatest country in the world first, the United States of America. I think that we are extremely blessed to live in the United States of America because part of our history is the quintessential American Road Trip. We have such a large contiguous land mass that the possibilities for constructing a road trip are endless.

As cliche as it may be, I would construct a trip that took a full lap of America. Since I would begin in Ohio, I think a somewhat non-traditional route where you could get the most bang for your buck would start with heading north into Michigan’s wine country, the dunes, and then into the grand wilderness and surprising beauty of the Upper Peninsula. Coming out the other side into Wisconsin and Minnesota would require some research and planning, but I am sure the country is beautiful there as well.My ultimate goal would be to make my way to the Dakotas to see Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, and the peace of the northern and forgotten states.

Montana would be the next stop, and a place that I have wanted to visit since I saw pictures of Glacier National Park, the giant mountain ranges and the Big Blue Skies that seem to stretch forever. While in Montana, we would have to ride on horseback through the mountains, do lots of hiking, and hopefully find a cabin where we could enjoy the wilderness, have a place where we could relax by the fire and cook a pot of chili on it like cowboys in the wild west. And while we desire nature’s wildness, we would also need a hot tub where we could rest our bodies and recover from the many miles of hiking that would be done.

There is so much beauty out west that I imagine that we would continue this trend of nature-seeking through Idaho and into the Pacific Northwest, but probably avoid California because there’s no way we could afford gas for the RV out there! In all seriousness, California would have to be a trip in itself because it is so large, with so much to see and do – whether it be hiking in God’s great creation, exploring wine country, or to venture to the coast.

After that we would head to Colorado for more forest-bathing and hiking and hope that the best spots weren’t overrun by Instagrammers seeking their perfect influencer picture. That would be the thing that I would fear through all of this and as we ventured to Utah’s National Parks, and to the Southwest’s famous hiking spots, the Grand Canyon, or even Sedona.

Maybe I sound like a recluse, but when I go on vacation, I want some sort of seclusion and an escape from the hustle and bustle of life, I do not want to wait in lines or explore cliche touristy things that do not involve nature, hiking, and have some sort of physical health benefit – not to mention the psychological release of exploring God’s Creation and witnessing His awesome power.

I think that as we made our way to Texas, and into the South and Southeastern states that we would begin to slow down and to explore more culture and less nature. By this point in the trip, we would be so exhausted that I think we would enjoy slowing down and there would be more cultural and historical sites in this portion of the country. This would also be a time where we would transition from being hiking fitness freaks to becoming beach bums that would enjoy a margarita and the crash of the waves on the sandy beaches while getting tan – or sunburnt.

To round out our perfect road trip, we would travel from the greasy goodness of home cooked southern food, up to New England and the Northeastern states. This would be a great stop to learn & witness the history that forged this land into the greatest country to ever exist. We often take it all for granted, but we must learn our history and where we came from to know why we are here – and where we intend to steer this ship in the future. And the beautiful thing is that once we got our fill of history, we could head up to Maine for more hiking and nature before making our way home to Ohio.

It is fun to dream, and maybe one day we will fix up our RV and make our way across the country. I can’t wait to travel the country with my family and to experience the greatness of America – and to share that with my son as he grows and develops an appreciation for America and spending quality time with family.

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Advice for my Teenage Self

astronomical clock in prague

When I saw that the first writing prompt for Bloganuary was “advice for my teenage self”, I balked at it and felt slightly discouraged. To me, it seemed slightly out of place to have the writing prompt for New Year’s Day to be focused on looking backwards instead of being hopeful for what the future may bring. Perhaps it was my own experiences in my teenage years that made me feel this way, or maybe it is my current disposition to only look forward; to stare out into the horizon and to envision what is coming rather than to crank my neck in retrospect and dream of “what if” and think of all the things that I could have done differently.

The truth is that I would not have done anything differently, and I would find it difficult to offer any advice to my teenage self because I believe that everything worked out well – and everything happened for a reason whether I realized that in the moment or not. Life and time is not something that can be changed or manipulated after the fact, but rather it must be faced for what it is and what it was.

The advice I would offer my teenage self would be to listen – so I suppose that is not advice at all, but it would be lending an ear to hear what I needed in that moment. Would my younger self offer anything up to a stranger? Would I know that it was me from the future? And even if I did have the knowledge that it was me, would I have the courage to say anything? I think that I would wonder why my future self was asking a question rather than offering advice – or maybe he just remembered the struggles that raged within my mind & heart; the thunderstorms of my soul.

Certainly I could offer advice on the stock market – and tell myself to buy 10 Bitcoin when I was pondering it at $800 – or maybe I could catch myself when it was pennies for a Bitcoin. What would life be like if I were lucky enough to realize what I was dealing with when seeing such a foreign concept?

Rather than looking back at what I would say to my teenage self, I now wonder – what advice would my 50 year old self offer to me at 31? That seems like a more reasonable question to ask, and one that makes you think in a futuristic position rather than wishing and wanting to alter your past. It makes me wonder whether the Metaverse will be the next Bitcoin – or whether it is a trap. It makes me wonder if my current thoughts are correct – “the way of the past is the way of the future” is one adage that I live by that I believe is a gold mine.

There is so much advice that we wish we had when we were younger, but what do we need right now? How can we position ourselves to be successful in 20 years? I do not think that we can quite comprehend that because our society tells us that we need to obtain our successes right now and they shove the success of the .000001% in our faces constantly while ramming propaganda down our throats. To be successful is not to be rich, to not make mistakes, and not to look backwards with a desire to change our past – it is being Happy in the moment and realizing all of the riches of the blessings that we hold in family, friends, and in our Self.

I guess I cheated this prompt because I would not change a thing about my journey through life because it shaped me into who I am today, and every little thing that occurred happened for a reason – down to the very second so that I can be in the place I am today, living with my soul mate, my newborn son, our dogs, on a career path that I love, and with a world full of excitement & opportunities ahead of me.

Plus – do I really think that my teenage self would listen to any outside advice?